China has been pretty busy this year exerting leverage on US-based travel brands. China has a very specific way they believe business should refer to them as well as other territories or regions they believe are under their control.
Earlier this year, Marriott had their website shut down in China. Their offense? Marriott hired a third-party survey company that listed Taiwan as a separate country from China. The website was only shut down for a week but I imagine there were significant financial consequences with no website to book in the world’s most populous country. Shortly thereafter, Marriott was reported to be removing books from hotel rooms that might offend China.
Hotels weren’t the only ones to get in on the action. China demanded an apology from Delta for a similar offense. Not long after, China demanded that all airlines worldwide comply with their demands. This included how to refer to countries like Taiwan on their websites. China was very specific, going so far as to say that the likes of Taiwan should be displayed in the same color as China on any maps.
Would US-Based Airlines Comply?
I was a guest on the Dots, Lines & Destinations podcast recently and this was one of the topics we covered. At the time, some of the US airlines had said they were deferring to the US government to deal with China on the issue. The US government made some public comments about how they thought China’s demands were nonsense. That was the only news I saw about the issue for a few weeks.
Now, Skift is reporting that US airlines will start complying with China’s demands shortly. This is not at all shocking to me. I said this was where I expected things to end up. Maybe in a different political climate, the two countries (US and China) would deal with this issue at the diplomatic level. But, at the point where these publicly-held companies are threatened with significant financial losses, deferring to the government or personal opinion take a backseat to a duty to shareholders.
I looked at a few major airline’s websites to see how “compliance” was going. American Airlines seems to have removed the Taiwan tag from their map. Delta and United still show a reference to Taiwan as opposed to “China Taiwan”.
The Final Two Pennies
I suspect this will be a non-issue shortly. There’s no indication of an escalation by the US with China on this point. Still, it’s bizarre to watch some of the most valuable companies in the world being used as political pawns.
The post US Airlines Cave To China On Taiwan was published first on Pizza in Motion.